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Our Culture for the Cause - Diya:The Annual South Asian Gala

While battling an enemy as ruthless as cancer, it’s encouraging to know that committed citizens are finding new ways to combat it. On October 22nd, the Canadian Cancer Society’s 3rd annual South Asian Gala to raise awareness and funds for cancer research took place.

While battling an enemy as ruthless as cancer, it’s encouraging to know that committed citizens are finding new ways to combat it. On October 22nd, the Canadian Cancer Society’s 3rd annual South Asian Gala to raise awareness and funds for cancer research took place.

Hosted by OMNI’s Angie Seth and popular emcee Donovan Fernandes, the night proved to be entertaining and successful, including inspiring speeches by spiritual leaders, nutritionists, and researchers, as well as Tamil singing, Bharatanatyam and Bhangra performances. On top of the exceptional performances, after a tasty South Asian buffet dinner, the dance floor opened and everyone tore it up to the sounds of some great Bollywood and Top 40s tunes.

Aside from the treat of having our own cultural kick to the gala (guests were engaged with what South Asian heritage had to offer to the cause), the evening also raised awareness. Cancer is the second most prevalent disease in Canada, taking many forms, and attacking various body parts, increasing the chances of being susceptible to it. This was emphasized at the gala through a dance performance. The performers used classical/ballet/modern dance styles and music, to creatively incorporate different cancer targets (such as lung cancer, thyroid, etc) in ways that got everyone’s attention and had myself personally moved.

Prior to this event, I was not aware of the South Asian community’s dedicated and active involvement with The Canadian Cancer Society. As a Medical Anthropologist, I was especially interested in how this illness was being addressed in culturally-specific ways. It was great to see some fellow Tamils sponsoring  (Thamor Jewelers)—and performing at (Tamil Cultural and Academic Society of Durham)—the gala.

Being involved with the Canadian Cancer Society shows active support of the organization’s mission to rid cancer and increase quality of life for those enduring it. At the same time, it also gives us the opportunity to engage with others going through similar experiences, strengthening and expanding our circle of support.

In addition to the funds raised through ticket sales for the event, all the proceeds from the  creative activities such as henna services, silent auctions, and the lamp lighting ceremony were donated to the fight against cancer.

Every event, donation or ‘article’ is not only creating awareness – but is a step toward having a better chance against cancer.

Cancer does not have as strong a stigma as it used to, mainly because we have better means to treat and support it today. But the challenges that come with it are far from over. Which is why this funding for research is important – it gives us more means to find out how to fight it – and of course, hope.

—Maria Arasaratnam

Photography by Monica Sharma

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